Three Great Roses
Roses are the most beloved of all garden flowers. Within this huge family of plants there is an enormous number of species and cultivars. Sizes range from tiny miniatures only 6 inches tall to royal climbers that stretch 40 feet or more in length. Add to that the intoxicating scent and the vibrant rainbow of flower colors, and it’s easy to understand gardener’s love affair with roses.
This love affair is changing, however. Increasingly, gardeners are turning away from high maintenance roses such as the Hybrid Teas, and embracing the tough and beautiful no-spray shrub roses.
The following shrub roses are favorites of mine.
Therese Bugnet (pronounced boo-nay) is one of many rugosa varieties. The word rugosa means wrinkled in Latin and refers to the thick, deeply veined foliage that gives rugosa roses their distinctive look. Being native to Alaska, Siberia and Japan, its no surprise that rugosas are cold tolerant. Their heat tolerance is surprising, however. These tough beauties are as tolerant of Oklahoma heat as they are of Arctic cold. They also are highly resistant to Black Spot, a horrible fungus disease that attacks most roses. Therese Bugnet flowers are rich rosy pink and nicely fragrant.
Knock Out certainly lives up to its name. Flowers are screaming cherry red, three inches in diameter and prolific. It’s a season-long bloomer, and its heat, drought and disease tolerant. A mass planting of Knock Out roses is incredibly beautiful. However, a single Knock Out tucked into a mixed shrub border also is a thing of beauty. Its glossy foliage and deep red flowers look great in the company of other shrubs and perennials.
Martha's Vineyard is a modern shrub rose released in 1995. Its rich, pink flowers are small, only an inch in diameter. The smallness of its flowers in no way lessens its impact in the garden, however. Flowers are borne in tight 6 to 8 inch clusters throughout the summer and fall. Use Martha’s Vineyard to line a sunny walk, pool or patio. It also is a dandy rose to tuck into borders. Like Therese Bugnet and Knock Out, Martha’s Vineyard is drought tolerant and highly disease resistant.
Shrub Rose Culture
Despite all the horror stories, roses are easy to grow, particularly low maintenance shrub roses. They require a mostly sunny site that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of daily sunlight. Typically, the more sunlight a rose receives the better it blooms.
Like most woody, deep rooted plants, roses perform best in reasonably well drained soils rich in organic matter. Roses draw energy from sunlight (photosynthesis) and nutrition from soil through roots. Tilling or spading a 3 to 4 inch layer of rich compost or rotted vegetation into the top 8 inches of soil before planting roses is very beneficial.
Fall is an excellent season to plant roses. Container grown plants may be planted throughout the year. Plant mid-size shrub roses 3 ½ to 4 feet apart. This allows good air movement around plants and helps to lessen common foliage diseases.
Many shrub roses (including the three mentioned here) don’t require the stringent and careful pruning needed by many modern Hybrid Teas. A good rule of thumb is to remove any dead or dying canes as they appear and in mid- spring (April) clip back no more than one-third of the remaining canes (last years growth) to encourage full foliage an heavy bloom. Very light trimming (shaping) during the remainder of the growing season may be done to keep plants tidy and attractive. Avoid frequent heavy pruning that will reduce plant vigor and flowering.
Many rose lovers come up with all sorts of "secret" feeding formulas. The truth is, however, that most hardy shrub roses grow beautifully when fertilized three times a year: spring, mid-summer, and early fall. Use a balanced fertilizer such as 16-8-8. Organic products such as home made compost also work well. For the last feeding in fall I often use a high phosphorus product such as 12-24-12 or 10-20-10. A low nitrogen and high phosphorous blend encourages less vigorous growth while increasing winter hardiness.
Most roses, particularly deep rooted shrub roses, are relatively tough, drought tolerant plants. A twice weekly watering during the summer of their first year will meet their needs. During the second and subsequent years, established plants require only a thorough weekly watering.